WRC

Loeb rocks into Rally Mexico lead

Loeb rocks into Rally Mexico lead

Petter Solberg fought hard with Sebastien Loeb on the second leg of Rally Mexico, but a rock gave Loeb the lead in today's third event of World Rally Championship. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. Photo by xpb.cc. "The sort of day...

Petter Solberg fought hard with Sebastien Loeb on the second leg of Rally Mexico, but a rock gave Loeb the lead in today's third event of World Rally Championship.

S?bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena.
Photo by xpb.cc.
"The sort of day that I really enjoy, with a full-on battle," commented the defending WRC champion. "We've been pushing at the limits of what's reasonable, particularly on the second run through 'Duarte'. We knew that this stage favoured Petter, so to lose the least time possible we went flat out and won the stage!"

Solberg held the lead for much of the day, swapping it with Loeb, until he hit a rock on the penultimate stage, SS13. That rock damaged the power steering on Solberg's Subaru Impreza WRC, and cost him 24 seconds on SS13, and a further nine seconds on the final SS14 superspecial.

"Sebastien and I have had a good fight out there today," commented Solberg. "Of course, it's a shame that the power steering problem means it's not quite so close now but the important thing is how far ahead of the rest of the field we've got."

The end result is that Loeb, who won six of the day's seven stages, now holds a decisive 37.7-second lead in his Kronos-entered Citroen Xsara WRC entering tomorrow's final -- and short -- final leg.

"Tomorrow we have 60 kilometres of special stage left," Loeb said. "We will try to keep up a good rhythm and above all to avoid making mistakes. Such a hard-fought advantage deserves to be protected!"

Petter Solberg and Phil Mills.
Photo by xpb.cc.
Solberg recognizes that Sunday's final leg, even short, will still be a battle between Loeb and himself: "I really feel that we're back in business now. I think we're in for an exciting finish tomorrow. Second place would mean some useful points but I came here for a win and I'm going to try my best to get one," said the Norwegian.

While that singular rock badly damaged Solberg's car -- and his hopes for victory in Mexico -- two-time WRC champion Marcus Gronholm hit rather more of them. Twice during the day, on the 10th and 11th stages, the Finn encountered rows of rocks laid neatly across the road.

Gronholm avoided further damage, but his recovery from his off-road excursion yesterday was slowed both by the rocks and by having to open the road by the virtue of leading the championship. While he made up 12 positions on the day, he still stands back in 11th, nearly 22 minutes behind Loeb, and two minutes behind 10th-placed Chris Atkinson.

Third, then, is Manfred Stohl, driving a privateer Peugeot 307 WRC, but nearly four minutes off the pace. Daniel Sordo, in the second Kronos entry, stands fourth, some 30 seconds behind Stohl.

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